IN our Saturday April 9 edition, we carried a report of a cutlass- wielding man attacking the Roxanne Burnham Gardens Nursery School, terrorising and robbing teachers and students. This is a most worrisome incident and obviously a most traumatic experience particularly for these very young children who have now begun their education journey.
Our report stated: “Pandemonium broke out at the Roxanne Burnham Gardens Nursery School, shortly after 11:00h yesterday, when a man, armed with a cutlass and a can of Boss spray, entered the building, forced the headmistress, her teaching staff and pupils to lie face down on the floor, then ordered the teachers to hand over laptops and blackberry cellular phones in their possession. The children, screaming, were the first to obey the order, followed by the headmistress Ms. Yvette Clarke and her teachers. One of the teachers, who was slow to obey, was dealt a severe blow to the head, then sprayed in the face at close range with Boss, and later had to be taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
“But had it not been for the quick-wittedness and bravery of a four-year-old boy who darted out through one of the doors, unnoticed, and ran out into the street screaming and alerting the neighbourhood, there might have been serious injuries or even deaths,” one teacher said.
She related that while the man was hotly pursuing her, brandishing the cutlass and threatening to ‘chop her up’ with it, the child escaped unnoticed.
Clearly, that four-year old boy averted what could have been an uglier and tragic incident and he should be given full commendation and perhaps the Ministry of Education/Guyana Police Force could present him with a special reward for bravery. It was a remarkable response by such a young child in such a dangerous situation.
However, this incident should become an eye opener on security at our schools which is becoming a growing concern. Only recently, there was the shocking incident of an ‘armed school gang’ from Georgetown travelling a number of miles to the Leonora Secondary School on the West Coast Demerara.
Therefore, it is imperative that the relevant authorities treat schools with the desired level of expediency and urgency so as to prevent this problem from becoming a ‘monster’, which may prove difficult to handle and, at the same time, expose our students and teachers to grave danger.
Maybe the approach to school security is a hang-over from the old days when it was not a problem and, as such, much emphasis was not placed on it.
However, the situation has drastically changed, with criminals who are now more vicious and merciless and are not sparing anyone, including the elderly and children.
It is now very clear that the days when we could have relied on a mere ‘watchman’ to ensure security in our schools are long gone, and this recent incident at the nursery school further confirms this.
Our schools are certainly not the safe havens they used to be and we have to be alive to this reality.
A different approach and attitude to security at schools have to be taken. And in this regard, it would mean employing professional security personnel in larger numbers.
In the current situation, school security is under threat not only from external criminal elements, but from within the schools themselves because there is a tendency for our youths to become violent. No doubt it is related to the growing violence in the larger society.
Today, in many countries, criminal attacks on schools and school violence have become severe problems and therefore we should not be complacent and allow the situation to reach similar proportions. We need to ‘nip it in the bud’ or the consequences could be grave.